By Peter Olorunnisomo – Hosts, Morocco, have won the Conferderation of African football championship for home-based players on the continental turf. As a footballing nation, Morocco’s prowess has been more noticeable at the intra-continental club level.
They however lived up to the considered tradition of host nations being tipped to win the tournament – usually spun on the consideration of preparation and home advantage and support rather than some other factors.
Morocco lived up to their pre-tournament billing by trouncing Nigeria 4-0 in the final on Sunday at a packed Complexe Mohamed V in Casablanca.
A brace from Zakaria Hadraf and a goal each from Walid El Karti and Ayoub El Kaabi was all the Moroccans needed to win their first major continental title since the 1976 Africa Cup of Nations.
The host were by far the better side as they tore apart a hapless Nigeria team who ended the game with a man less after Eneji Moses was given the marching off orders early in the second half.
The Nigerian team did not seem to have any answers to the smooth and silky style of the Moroccans which cost them dearly as the robust and physical style only occasioned more infringements and yellow cards against them.
Left-winger Ismail Haddad was the star of the Moroccans as he had a say in no less than three of the goals.
Morocco unsettled Nigeria with their early dominance as the West Africans laboured in search of their rhythm. And they kept the Nigerian backline busy till the quarter-hour mark during which El Kaabi was denied by the crossbar from a Hadraf cross from the left.
The Super Eagles came into the fore around the 20th minute mark but rarely threatened the Moroccan defence.
Just before the break, the stadium came alive with the opener courtesy Hadraf. Captain Badr Benoun went on a solo run beating two players and found Abdeljalil Jbira whose cross was slotted home by Hadraf to send the stadium into raptures.
Trailing by a lone goal, Nigeria’s chances of a comeback were dealt a severe blow two minutes after recess when Moses was sent off for a second yellow card after fouling Hadraf.
The super eagles did not play with any tactical recourse after this as they seemed to be further dis-spirited. Their long balls up-front to their point man was a tactic over-used for which the Moroccans had adequately prepared. Once this was nullified, the game appeared to have been lost.
The Atlas Lions made the best of their numerical advantage and it was only a matter of time that the second goal would come.
The second goal came on 61 minutes through El Karti, and yet again Haddad was the architect. El Kaabi was for the second time denied the post and Haddad pounced on the loose ball and fired a shot a goal that Nigeria goalkeeper Oladele Ajiboye parried for El Karti to head home the rebound.
Hadraf completed his brace two minutes later after Ajiboye made a weak touch of a Haddad cross, and the former tapped home the rebound to take the game beyond the Nigerians.
El Kaabi finally registered his name of the scoring cards, firing past Ajiboye from close range on 74 minutes for his ninth of the competition, and seal victory.
And thus the Eagles settled for silver medals.
Man of the Tournament
Tournament sensation Ayoub El Kaabi has been adjudged the best player of the Total African Nations Championship Morocco 2018.
El Kaabi was presented with the Total man of the Tournament award moments after aiding host Morocco beat Nigeria 4-0 in the final on Sunday in Casablanca. The RS Berkane forward also finished top scorer after netting nine goals in six games.
He also had a place in the team of the tournament.
Below are the details of the awards:
Total Man of the Tournament: Ayoub El Kaabi (Morocco)
Top scorer: Ayoub El Kaabi (Morocco) – 9 goals
Fair Play: Morocco
Team of the tournament
Goalkeeper: Akram El Hadi (Sudan)
Defenders: Omer Suliman (Sudan), Stephen Eze (Nigeria), Badr Benoun
Midfielders: Solomon Ojo (Nigeria), Walid El Karti (Morocco), Salaheddine Saidi (Morocco), Zakaria Hadraf (Morocco), Abdulrahman Ramadhan (Libya)
Forwards: Ayoub El Kaabi (Morocco), Saleh Taher (Libya)
Anas Zniti (Morocco), Sand Masaud (Libya), Vladimir Antonio (Angola), Bader Hasan (Libya), Augustine Mulenga (Zambia), Saifeldin Bakhit (Sudan), Ismail El Haddad (Morocco)
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